Friday, 23 June 2017

WHO ARE THE JCs?


This is the opening of 'Who Are the JCs?', the third of the South Downs Murder Mysteries. The locations for this book, as well as a town on the South Downs, include the town of Merian (on the coast) and Southampton.


CHAPTER 1

As Ruth Goldstein was helped by the waiter to take her seat at the table the gentleman on her left greeted her. 'Good evening,' and gave her a bright smile, his hazel eyes twinkling.
She returned his greeting, then concentrated on the menu. Eventually the table was full and the waiter took their orders, after which the eight diners introduced themselves.
Ruth, knowing from experience that they might never see each other again after this meal said, ruefully, 'I'm sorry, but I probably shan't remember your names.'
The lady on her right chuckled. 'Don't worry about it. None of us will.' She then lowered her voice, 'Bit of a waste of time really.'
'True,' Ruth agreed. 'But at least we don't have to wear name badges.'
'Now that would be truly awful. Like being on a school outing.'
The Wine Waiter reached their table and, after he had ordered a bottle, the man on Ruth's left turned to her. 'You don't drink?'
'No. Never have, although my late husband did.'
'I'm sorry to hear that he is no longer with you.'
'Thank you. He died four years ago. Your wife is not with you?'
'I'm divorced.'
'Oh dear. So many marriages seem to fail these days. I'm sorry, but what did you say your name is?'
He gave her one of his charming smiles. 'Don't worry about it. I'm Josh. Like you I am on my own on this cruise.'
'And you are retired?'
'Not really. I don't have what is called a day job. I work for myself and have staff to look after the business.'
Conversation ceased whilst they consumed the first course and Ruth looked around the table. Two couples she thought were probably in their mid to late sixties. Two ladies together. Sisters or friends? Probably in their seventies. Josh, wearing heavy gold rings on both hands, an expensive suit and silk tie, whom she thought was in his mid-sixties. Young enough to be her son. And she wondered what they all thought about her.
What they saw was a dumpy figure in a mid-range beige and green dress. Her short iron grey hair was well cut and showed her round face off to advantage. She had never worn much make-up and now that her sallow skin was wrinkled she wasn't tempted to overdo it.
Josh return to their conversation. 'I noticed that as you were being shown to the table a couple of waiters greeted you.'
'Yes, I've been on the Oriana before.'
'I guessed that. This is my first time. I usually go on Cunard but thought I would try P&O for a change.'
Conversation then became more general until coffee when they discussed what they had chosen to do that evening.
'What are your plans, Ruth? Going to see the show?' Josh asked.
She shook her head. 'Not tonight. I'm very tired. I'll have a read and an early night.'
'So you will be fresh to begin your cruise tomorrow. Very wise. Where would you advise for breakfast?'
'This dining room. The Peninsular,' she reminded him of its name.
'So I might see you in the morning.'
At that point there was movement around the table as the diners prepared to leave.

'Milly, I am so lucky to have met such a nice gentleman,' eighty-three-year old Ruth Goldstein told her younger friend as they sat at the kitchen table in Milly's kitchen on a dull September morning.
'It certainly sounds like it. Very nice to have a bit of company. How lucky he was on your table the first night.'
'Wasn't it?' Ruth was recently back from her latest cruise. Since the death of her husband she had taken to cruising in a big way. 'You know I love my cruises. I get to meet some really delightful people, see places I've never seen before. And, of course, there's my dancing.'
Milly Stewart had met Ruth and her husband, Reuben, at the Assembly Rooms where they and other friends went regularly to the ballroom dances. Following a few months of mourning Ruth had been persuaded back to dancing. 'They have dancing every evening on board?'
'Most evenings. Even if the dance hosts aren't there, there is some music playing for us.'
'Which ship was this one?' Milly couldn't keep up with the ship's names. All she could remember was P&O and Cunard.
'The Oriana. My favourite. It has a proper ballroom. Some of the other ships I've been on have dancing in the Atrium which isn't very nice.'
Milly decided not to go there. She had heard Ruth's complaints several times before. 'So tell me about your gentleman friend.'
Ruth tittered. 'I wouldn't call him that. After all he is about twenty years younger than me. Very smart. He's retired,' (which makes him at least sixty-three Milly thought), 'but he does own some property that he rents out.'
'So he's well heeled.'
Ruth leant across the table and whispered, 'He's a millionaire.'
'Really?' As they were in Milly's kitchen she wondered why her friend had whispered the words.
'Yes. And so generous. On one of the Dress Nights. You know, posh frocks and dinner jackets,' she expanded at Milly's puzzled look, 'he bought champagne for dinner.' The old lady sat back with a satisfied smile, her brown eyes twinkling.
'Very nice.' Not being a lover of champers Milly didn't know what else to say. And as she knew Ruth didn't drink alcohol wondered why buying a bottle of fizzy wine was such a big deal.
'And before we got off the ship he bought me this.' She pulled a gold chain from under her jumper.
'That's lovely, Ruth. Must have cost quite a bit.'
'Probably. He wouldn't buy rubbish.'
'You didn't choose it?'
'No, it was a total surprise.' But she didn't confess to having bought Josh a parting gift of his favourite aftershave.

                             ********************************

I hope you enjoyed the opener and now buy the book, read it, recommend it and - of course - give it a 5* review! For which I will love you forever!

At the moment the book is only available on Kindle - if I receive enough requests for the paperback version, then I will create it. 




Sunday, 18 June 2017

Why Some of us Self-Publish.

What a blessing Amazon is for those of us who seem to have spent most of our lives writing books but not getting published. Obviously at first our books weren't well written. And I confess that my first attempts were embarrassingly awful!

We gradually improved, went to classes or workshops, worked hard and learned our trade. But we still couldn't get published. Why not?

We had excuses and advice from agents and publishers and enough rejection slips to paper a room. The favourite excuse was 'not our type of thing'. A popular piece of advice is 'write about what you know'. So I did. A crime novel set in Spain with the main characters being a Spanish detective and an English hotel rep. Response? 'We don't publish courier books.' Oh what a laugh - it wasn't a courier book. Obviously no one had actually read the manuscript.

Still I kept trying as I know thousands of other writers have done and continue to do.

Now many of us are published - on Kindle (or on some other e-reader) and we sell our books. If your writing isn't any good you don't sell your books! The only way to find out is to go ahead and publish them. If they don't sell find a good editor to advise you where you are going wrong.

For me the best thing about self-publishing is that I don't have to try to mind read as to what agents/publishers think is going to be the next popular type of book. How would they know anyway?

Of course one thing that all self-published writers need is promotion. Which is where you, dear readers, come in. If you like a book then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, give it a star rating (obviously we all want 5 stars) and recommend it to your friends. If you see a link to the book (or another in that series) on Twitter, Facebook etc. etc. please re-tweet - you know what I mean! We rely on you to spread the word.


In the meantime, thank you all very much for your support. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Large bottles of shampoo etc.

This morning I spent ages in the chemist's looking for a small bottle of shampoo. No, not a travel sized one but one that I can hold without dropping it! Of the vast array of shampoos and conditioners I found only ONE. Simple (200ml) - thank you for that one.

I have come to the conclusion that manufacturers of things such as these and shower/body washes aren't covered by the disability act (or whatever its latest name is).

I understand why they use bottles containing 400ml/500ml - it is more profitable for them. Unfortunately for those of us who have hand/finger/wrist problems these size bottles are almost impossible to use. Usually half of the contents end up down the drain because we constantly drop them.

Another thought which I have is, that when you are under the shower your hands are wet.....

No point in complaining to Trading Standards, is there? 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dirty Deeds on Downdene

Here is the opening to the second Cleo Marjoribanks murder mystery: 

There I was doing my vastly improved dog-paddle up and down the pool when the phone rang.  Yeah, I know that like all modern marvels it can answer itself but, I dunno, it sounded urgent.  I made it to the steps and clambered out, grabbed a towel and picked up the receiver as it was about to self respond.
“Hello.”
“Queen of the Nile, how’re you doing?”
“Hi, Primrose.  I’m fine.  You?”
“Fine!  Fine!”  This was said airily and I grew suspicious of my crime journalist friend.
“Really?  So to what do I owe the honour of this call?”  A peal of laughter came down the wire and I held the receiver away from my ear so that she didn’t split me ear-drum.  Prim is a sweet girl, born on Primrose Day and as her surname’s Day, her parents got a bit carried away.  (Primrose Day?  19th April, the anniversary of the day Disraeli died and, as primroses were his favourite flowers Queen Victoria had the day so named in his memory).  When I first knew Prim her hair was braided and trimmed with hundreds of beads.  Noisy.  Now she’s got it short and curly.  Natural like.  She’s black, beautiful and works on one of the national dailies.
“Not much gets past you does it, Cleo?”
“At my size, ducks, no.  So, why are you calling?”
“Well, I hear lover boy’s got himself another murder to investigate.”
I frowned.  “Really?  How did you hear about this before me?”  Not fair.  David hadn't mentioned it.  That's DCI 'Steaming' Kettle and my lover.
“Contacts,” Prim responded succinctly.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, alright.  So what are you calling me about?”
“Thought you might have some idea about it, but as I’ve been the bearer of the news I guess you don’t know anything.”
“You guess right and I’m not going to get involved this time.”
“No, I’m sure you're not,” she said disbelievingly.
“I’m not,” I told her indignantly.
“Okay.  Don’t you want to know anything about it?”
Can’t keep my curiosity to myself can I?  My friends know me too well.  “Not really.”  I tried to match her earlier airy tone.
“Come off it, girl, course you do.”  Yeah, she’s also a cockney but it don’t come out as often as mine.
“You’re going ter tell me anyway, aren't you?”
She chuckled.  “Of course.”
“Go on then,” I urged as she kept me waiting.
“Seems like an estate agent dropped dead in his soup at some do in Lymington last night.”
“Oh?”  Definitely interesting.  So who had done for him?  A disgruntled client?  Someone who had been gazumped?
“Well, not exactly in the soup.  It was a bit later than that.  At the moment the cops aren’t calling it murder, just a sudden death which they have to investigate.  Seems strange to me that Steaming is in on it, though.  Doesn’t it?”
“Definitely.  Wonder what he was given?"  The victim I mean.  "In Lymington you said?”
“Yeah.”
“So I gather you’re on your way down here?”
She laughed again.  “Well, I've been told to come down there and thought it might be a good idea to visit you?”  Why was she querying it?  She knew I’d want her to stay here. “I thought I could stay in the house instead of the flat over the garage.  You know, keep you company while lover-boy is working.”
“What d’you mean, keep me company?”
“As they say in my job, if you ain’t got contacts, you ain’t got a job.  No point in not using them, is there?”  I could almost hear the smile.
“You win.  What time shall I expect you?”  We fixed an approximate time in the afternoon, then she asked, “What you doing?  Sounds as if you’re in the pool room.”
“I was just practicing.”
“Good girl.  I’ll give you some more lessons, if you like.”
“So that I can start powering up and down the pool the same way you do?”
That made her laugh.  “Sorry, Cleo, I don’t think you’d quite manage that.”
“I don’t think so either.  Anyway, see you later.”
I put the phone down and picked up me robe and put it on.  That was the end of my swimming practice for the day.  Time to go and shower and get dressed.  I should explain that the pool room was once a conservatory.  When I bought this place it was missing most of its glass and the plants had run wild. 
The house is a 1920s mock Tudor effort and the old girl who’d owned it before me kept cats and didn’t do no housework.  It was in a right sorry state.  Mind you, I did get it at a bargain price, but had to spend a lot to put it right.  It’s smashing now.  My bathroom’s got a spa bath and I’ve had another two rooms made into a guest suite and that’s also got a spa bath.  Got a thing about them, I have.  I've also got a 'community' one in the pool room and another in my flat in London.  And there's a flat over the double garage.  That's actually for a housekeeper but now I keep it as a 'guest suite'.  In the garage are my Land Rover and my precious Rolls Royce Silver Wraith.
I know it sounds daft, but do you know I actually got dressed before I made my next phone call?  I could have laid on the bed abso-bloody-lutely starkers and no one would have seen me and I admit that I’m not exactly a pretty sight when naked.  At least, I don’t think so.  Suppose I ought to tell you something about me.
The name’s Cleo Marjoribanks – pronounced Marchbanks as I often have to tell people who get it wrong.  People are never sure whether my hair is naturally red but my colouring is fair and I do freckle.  I leave it for you to decide!  And I tend to load on the paintwork, especially the eye-shadow which confounds people when it comes to the colour of my eyes.  You know, are they blue, are they grey or are they hazel?  Depends on the eye-shadow.  Me nose is straight and little on the large size and I have a very determined chin.  No, I'm not beautiful, but I think you could call it interesting.
I have to wear glasses when I’m driving because I’m short-sighted.  Not quite blind as a bat.  And I’m what’s called 'stately' so I go crazy with clothes.  Lots of caftans - they cover a multitude of sins.  And the regulatory strings of beads to wear with them.  The problem with them is that they catch on the most unlikely things.  Whoever is with me at the time usually ends up scrabbling on the ground trying to find the missing beads.  Because I’m well-endowed the beads won’t lie flat against me chest.

Kindle edition:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008ORNGCU
Paperback edition:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1520418264

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A FAVOURITE AUNT

Many years ago I saw a programme on television about women in the 1960s who had left their husbands. A very brave thing to do when the only 'Right' a woman in England had was the vote. There was something called the Married Women's Property Act which said women were entitled to 50% of the couple's 'property' but had to prove their had contributed 50% to the household. Bearing in mind that many married women didn't go out to work - or whose wages were miniscule - it was impossible to prove they had contributed 50%.

For a woman without children things were 'reasonably' simple to leave an abusive husband as she only had to fend for herself. But if there were children and the wife took them it was a whole other ball game.

In the television programme it was revealed that some of the women who took their children were subsequently deprived of them - either into care or custody was given to the husband. Many of these women ended up turning to drink and cigarettes and some, unfortunately, committed suicide. A few battled through and survived.

'A Favourite Aunt' is a novella about one of the survivors. Christina married in 1960 and it all went wrong from the beginning - no matter how hard she tried.

Please read this book - especially if you are a child (or grandchild) of such a disastrous marriage. You will then understand exactly what happened and why.


The book will shortly also be available in paperback.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072LK5GNV

THIS BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Cosy, Thriller or Psychological?

As a writer of 'cosy' crime I can say - categorically - that there is nothing cosy about crime.

For some strange reason, a few years ago the term Cosy Crime was coined as a way of categorising Crime Novels that don't contain violence. Leaving those of us who write it rather puzzled. There are three basic categories in the crime genre:

CRIME - minimal violence, very little blood and gore. And - not necessarily a story about murder.

THRILLER - contains violence, blood and gore and bad language.

PSYCHOLOGICAL - pretty self-explanatory. Can include violence and bad language. Books on such 'subjects' as a woman (or anyone) in jeopardy.

West Sussex Libraries used to divide these books into two categories - Crime and Thriller. Then decided to shove them in together. Those of us who prefer one or the other complained but were unable to get the message across. Aren't librarians taught the difference between the genres?

And, of course, those of us who write so-called cosy crime are waiting for the day when someone devises a more sensible description! 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

English Spring

Following a few days of summer-like weather a couple of weeks ago we are now back to 'the big chill'. Even had snow in Scotland and the north of England. Unfortunately, the mini 'heat-wave' had people assuming that spring had arrived and summer couldn't be far away.

Oh dear, oh dear. Some are now busily unpacking their winter clothes!

A mistake I will never make because I can remember May 4th 1984. I had flown overnight from Florida and was standing on Gatwick station freezing! I had assumed that the weather wouldn't be THAT cold but had taken the precaution of wearing trousers and a jacket. I needed fur lined boots, thick sweater and a parka!

And I have photographs taken that week with people wearing their winter coats.

No good blaming the climate-change. English weather has always been erratic.